25 March 2011

Kinshasa in the Time Machine

Well now that it is the end of March I thought it'd be a good time to write about a trip I did in the beginning of January... better late than never. That is what "they" say right? Ok, moving on.

So I currently work in Lubumbashi, which is the very southeast part of DRC. Our base here, however falls into the 'West DRC' program so while we have a couple of pilots and planes here we also have other teammates within our program serving in Kinshasa, which is over 1500 kms away. Every year the program has what we call a Family Conference. It is a time where we stop working and spend a week together, families included, and just enjoy a time of fellowship, learning and activities. So I got to travel to Kinshasa for this conference in January and get to meet the rest of my MAF team members, who I had not met yet. It was fun to meet everyone and their families and see what life was like for them in Kinshasa, which is a huge city and can be very tense and chaotic at times. For the conference they brought a small team from the USA to lead us in a Bible study and music, which was very good. It was nice to be led by Americans to have taste of church from back home. We also did some other recreational activities around the city. Swimming. Softball. Visiting a lake and bonobos sanctuary. Good food and games. The conference was great to attend and it was great to spend time with others serving in the same way as me.

The other thing that I have to mention about this trip was that is was a kind of homecoming for me. I spent 4 years of my childhood (ages 4-8) in Kinshasa and I had not been back there since my family was evacuated from DRC 18 years ago. So I was quite excited to return to this place where I had created some memories as a kid. I wasn't sure how much I would remember because I was young when I left and it had been a long time since then, but I was surprised as some memories flooded back. The conference was held at The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK), where I attended school for K-2nd grades. It was surreal to walk around the campus and remember so many memories.

The steps where I stood when I had my picture taken on my first day of school ever. The concrete block where I vividly remember being delirious with a fever and laying down and watching ants crawl across the ground before I puked all over. The bamboo trees where I used to find ladybugs during recess. The playground I slipped and cut my chin open. The tennis courts where my parents used to play. The cubbie boxes in my kindergarten classroom. The soccer fields where I watched my brothers play. The pool with the diving bored and slide that my and my brothers and sister spent hours playing. The softball field where I was dubbed "Le petit Americain". The field with the huge trees where my dad used to fly his remote control airplane around. The jungle path we walked through to get to the houses on the bottom campus. The circular driveway where we did our halloween parade.

There were just tons of more memories that would just come to me as I walked around. Things I would have never thought of again if I hadn't visited. I also got stay with one of the MAF families living in Kinshasa that happened to be living in my old house. Again it was another surreal experience. Seeing the house where I grew up and played. My old room where my bunk bed used to be. The living room where we watched videos sent from relatives in the USA. Where we celebrated Christmas. The kitchen where I sat on the counter looking through catalogs circling the things I might want for Christmas. The yard with the banana trees and the small hill where we would ride our bikes down. The place where our trampoline had been, but was not sadly filled in. The old swingset. The backyard patio where my Mark and Kris blew things up with gunpowder. Just walking down the street and around the neighborhood where me and my brothers and the other missionary kids spent hours of our lives playing and exploring the depths of our imagination. I even saw the street down road from my house, which used to be in a reoccurring nightmare I had as a child. So many things that had been forgotten with time. Beautiful trip and beautiful memories.